INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power spoke during the INDYCAR Media Teleconference on Tuesday about the quality of this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series field and was asked about despite there being a new car for the 2018 season, about how the cautions have been drastically less. That got my mind wandering, which is a dangerous thing, and I did some research.
They’re right in that sense. In fact, the story gets better.
We’ve run 13 races so far this year and when you look at data from the aerokit era (2015 through 2017), cautions this year are down much more than cautions from the years past. Take last year for example, there were 52 cautions for the entire season for 311 laps. With 2,331 laps run overall throughout the year, that equates out to just 13-percent of the laps run that were run under yellow.
That’s a pretty low number but with the talent being rich and the car having a ton of downforce, what do you expect.
Well, INDYCAR brought out a brand new car for the 2018 season. This car is much more difficult to drive with over half of the downforce from the aerokit era now being gone. All the downforce is now underneath the car from here on out. Everyone has raved about how this new car drives and has said that it puts the car back in the drivers’ hands again. They now get to drive the car instead of being basically a passenger.
So, with a harder car to drive, you would think that we’d see more mistakes which leads to more cautions right? Instead, its gone the otherway. We’ve had just 36 cautions all season for only 199 laps. At the moment, we’ve run 1,730 laps through 13 races, so with only 199 of those 1,730 laps being under yellow, that equates out to just 12-percent.
That’s a 1-percent gain in the positive direction.
Power, a series champion and the winner of this past year’s Indy 500 has a theory of why.
“I would say it’s obviously a level of competition now,” said the Team Penske driver. “You have a lot more continuity of drivers in IndyCar these days, so obviously people understand the racing and the cars a lot better. There’s no bad drivers in the field any more. They all know how to race hard but fair. You know, IndyCar developed a great car to drive. You got to hang it out, but it’s forgiving.
“Yeah, it’s very interesting how green the races have been, but it’s not surprising with the level of driver talent.”
Power, went on to say that even with drivers able to run closer with this car than ever before, the air isn’t as much of a disturbance as it was in the past. That allows drivers, who he says are already as talented as ever, to make calculated moves instead of ones out of desperation.
“The way they developed this car is you can run very close,” he continued. “The air does not disturb you anywhere near the old car. So, yes, that’s true. So you’re not taking a desperate move. You’re already pretty close.”
In 2016, we saw 46 cautions fly for 302 laps. With 2,070 laps run that year, that was 15-percent of the races run under yellow.
In 2015, the first year of the aerokits, we saw 73 cautions fly for 427 laps. With 2,232 laps run in the 2015 season, that was 19-percent of the races run under caution.
As you can see, the cautions have fallen off year over year. Some of that goes to the talent. Some of that goes to the cars being safer and better to drive. Nevertheless, it’s a better product for the fans because we’re getting over 80-percent of the season run under green flag conditions.